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ACS Comments

February 18, 2008
Volume 86, Number 07
p. 41

Global Collaboration And Challenges

Marinda Li Wu, Director-at-Large

The Chinese New Year 4706 began on Feb. 7 and was celebrated by over a billion people across the globe. The new year is a good time to reflect on the rapid economic development of the world's most populous country and the opportunities and challenges it might provide for global collaboration.

I was fortunate to witness the phenomenal progress in China firsthand when I spent three weeks there last October. I had last visited China just prior to celebrating the new millennium, and the changes since have been profound indeed.

My recent travels confirmed not only what I read but also what I hear with regard to the rising influence of China. Case in point, "Power & Prosperity: New Dynamics, New Dilemmas" was the title of a fascinating conference sponsored by the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University that I attended last November.

Li Wu Photo by Norm Wu
ACS is in a position to help catalyze partnerships among U,S, and Chinese universities in order to facilitate exchange of knowledge, students, and faculty.

Three former U.S. ambassadors spoke on "Asia's Triple Rise: How China, India & Japan Will Shape Our Future." They commented on the global balance of power with modernization and peaceful development as China's top priority. We have certainly seen the rapid rise of both China and India in pharmaceutical research and more recently in drug discovery. "Global Cooperation & Competition in Higher Education" was the timely topic of an interactive "webinar" from Stanford in which I also participated.

I was inspired to write this ACS Comment by a visiting delegation of five deans from leading Chinese universities who toured the U.S. from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4. This visit was initiated by Ziling (Ben) Xue, professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee, and Herb Kaesz, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is also a member of the ACS International Activities Committee (IAC).

Nina I. McClelland, chair of IAC, and Bradley D. Miller, director of the ACS International Activities Office, supported this initiative and organized the visit. Participating were deans from Peking University, Nankai University, Nanjing University, and Xiamen University. The associate chair of the chemistry department from Tsinghua University was also part of the delegation.

This visit of the Chinese deans was designed for participants to share information and experiences on how chemistry departments in both the U.S. and China are organized to support teaching, research, and service. McClelland hosted the Chinese delegation at the University of Toledo, in Ohio. In Boston, ACS President Bruce Bursten met with the delegation as they visited with the chemistry departments at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group also met with several ACS journal editors in Boston and San Francisco for roundtable discussions to exchange information. They also learned about SciFinder from Chemical Abstracts.

In San Francisco, I was privileged to be the ACS Board representative accompanying the group as they visited both the departments of chemistry and chemical engineering at UC Berkeley and then the department of chemistry at Stanford the next day. Many of the professors at these universities hold joint appointments from different departments, illustrating the importance of interdisciplinary research. We were all impressed by the information shared and appreciative of the knowledge gained.

The Chinese delegation's visit was mutually beneficial. We made some wonderful contacts and concluded the visit with a productive discussion of future actions. Some exciting possibilities for future collaborations and exchanges have the potential to help ACS attain its goals to "engage global community" and "affect world challenges" from ACS's "Strategic Plan 2008 and Beyond" (

ACS is in a position to help catalyze partnerships among U.S. and Chinese universities in order to facilitate exchange of knowledge, students, and faculty. The desire to host a joint program that might offer information ranging from new research on global challenges such as environmental, energy, or health care issues to ideas on how best to raise awareness of the benefits that chemistry brings to society was discussed.

One Chinese dean wants to learn more about how we celebrate National Chemistry Week, because they would like to bring at least a Chemistry Day to China to raise awareness of the field there among parents and children. Apparently, even in China, many students are now choosing to study business over chemistry. U.S. universities have interest in a joint program in China as a useful tool to identify and recruit students.

I believe this is a fabulous start to even more global collaboration to address world challenges for the future. I plan to attend the Chinese-American Chemical Society dinner program on April 7 at the ACS national meeting in New Orleans. Xuteng Hu, vice president of the Petrochemical Research Institute of PetroChina, has been invited to speak on "Challenges for Energy & Chemical Industry in China." I hope to see some of you there.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.